A housing report released Thursday by RealtyTrac and Clear Capital shows that buying a home was at the most affordable level in two years in the first quarter ended March 31, despite the average U.S. home price increasing at more than twice the pace of the average weekly wage nationwide over the past year.RealtyTrac analyzed Q1 2015 average weekly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and average prices for single-family homes and condos derived from publicly recorded sales deed data collected in 582 U.S. counties with sufficient home price information. Average home price appreciation outpaced average wage growth between the first quarter of 2014 and the first quarter this year in 397 out of 582 (68%) U.S. counties analyzed for the report. But during the same period, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 57 basis points (13%), from 4.34% in the first quarter of 2014 to 3.77% in the first quarter of 2015. The drop in interest rates - along with wage growth outpacing home price appreciation in 32% of counties - meant buying a home in the first quarter of 2015 required a smaller share of the average wage compared to a year ago in 339 of the 582 counties (58%).Average interest rates on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage came from the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Clear Capital, a provider of commercial and residential real estate valuations, data and analytics, analyzed data from its Home Data Index to determine counties at highest risk and lowest risk based on affordability and potential for price growth (available upon request)."Although home prices continue to outpace wage growth in the majority of local markets, this analysis somewhat surprisingly shows that affordability is actually improving in most markets thanks to falling interest rates and slowing home price growth, which is allowing wage growth to catch up in some markets," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, a comprehensive housing data resource. "At the national level, buying an average-priced home in the first quarter of 2015 was the most affordable it’s been in two years and nearly twice as affordable as it was in the second quarter of 2006 - when affordability was its worst in the past 10 years. At the local level we’re seeing several bellwether markets where wage growth matched or even outpaced home price growth over the past year."Major markets where wage growth outpaced home price growth in the first quarter - counter to the national trend - included Cook County, Ill. in the Chicago metro area; Orange County, Calif. in the Los Angeles metro area; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Fairfax County, Va. in the Washington, D.C., metro area; and Riverside County in Southern California, where the average weekly wage in the first quarter was up 10% from a year ago, double the 5% growth in average home prices during the same time period.Assuming a 3% down payment, monthly payments on an average-priced U.S. home - including property taxes, home insurance and private mortgage insurance (PMI) - required 36.5% of the average wage nationwide in the first quarter, down from 37.6% in the previous quarter and down from 37.4% in the first quarter of 2014 to the most affordable level since the first quarter of 2013, when affordability was 33.5%.Buying a home nationwide was at the most affordable level in the last 10 years in the first quarter of 2012, when monthly house payments required 32% of average wages, while buying a home nationwide was at the least affordable level in the last 10 years in the second quarter of 2006, when monthly house payments required 70.7% of average wages. 

  

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